Sette Luna - meaning seventh moon) - is a cozy and creatively designed Italian bistro in Easton, PA: Italian food (of course), a well-designed wine list, and a surprisingly good beer list.
I say "surprising", because many better restaurants seem to expend their creative juices on their menus and wine lists, and then put together their beer lists as mere afterthoughts. I exclude brewpubs and beer-centric pubs and restaurants from this generalization because of their very nature.
If I hadn't known the pedigree here at Sette Luna, yes, I would have been surprised. But I did, and so, to contradict myself, I was not surprised at the care devoted here to the beer!
I first met owner and General Manager Josh Palmer a couple of years ago when he was the General Manager of the Boulevard Wood Grill in Clarendon, Virginia. He had just begun to create a good beer draft list. I introduced him to Clipper City's roster of beers; he liked what he tasted and brought in several. Current bar manager Billy has continued the program.
When an opportunity arose to rebuild an existing restaurant space in Easton - where his family resides - Josh took the opportunity. That was nearly two years ago. Since then he has expanded into the adjoining storefront and achieved community acclaim.
He recently invited me to host the first ever beer dinner to be held at Sette Luna since its opening. And the occasion also happened to be only the second ever formal tasting/dinner anywhere of the complete line of Heavy Seas beers from Clipper City (the first having been at Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton, Maryland).
As additional surprises, Josh had cellared the only two vintages of Below Decks Barleywine. And I brought a case of Clipper City's Hang Ten, our yet-to-be-released new summer seasonal, a 10% abv Weizen Dopplebock. It was the first public tasting anywhere of this beer, even before the next day's tour tasting at the brewery itself.
Reservations were limited so that the dinner could be held in the lower-level stone-clad wine cellar. And so, all sixteen of us were seated at a gorgeous wooden table hewn in situ from a block of wood from a 200 year old Buck's County Pennsylvania barn.
- Cheese plate with Small Craft Warning Uber Pils and Red Sky at Night Saison
- Montrachet goat cheese
- Bra Duro & Stalionato(sp?)
- Montrachet goat cheese
- Mushroom Marinara Pizza with Winter Storm Imperial ESB
- Mussels au vin with Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale
- Lamb Shank braised in Peg Leg Stout served with Peg Leg Imperial stout (naturally!)
- Arugula Salad served with Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale
- Chocolate Mousse served with Below Decks Barleywine 2006
- Special surprise: first ever public tasting of Hang Ten Weizen Dopplebock!
During the evening, I discussed the beers and the brewery, while Josh discussed the food and the reasons for pairing.
The food-spice nature of the saison nutured the goatiness of the Montrachet goat cheese. This is a delicious cheese that I recommend to you if you haven't yet tried it.
Small Craft Warning
The combination of the short-bread-like malt flavor of Euro-malts and the floral/spicy structure of Euro-hops complemented the similar flavors of the Italian cheeses (as it also does with Spanish sheeps milk cheeses such as Manchego).
As a default, fairly tasteless N.AI.L.s often are paired with pizza, but usually simply as cold wet wash, rather than for any interesting flavor qualities. But with Winter Storm Imperial ESB, the caramel character of English malts melded into the flavor of tomato sauce; earthy English hops mated well with the earthy flavor of funghi.
Mussels and Belgian beers have been a geographical gastronomical pairing for centuries. Why dispute? So, with the bivalves was our Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale (Westmalle yeast).
Red wine is often used as a liquid for braising meats. But why not a a full-bodied darker beer? It brings toasted, roasted, and browned food flavors to the liquid - a natural for braising. Hence, Josh's kitchen did just that ... with Peg Leg Imperial Stout for lamb shank. Josh has plans to introduce this preparation as a menu item.
Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale
Josh chose a creative pairing here. He thought of the beer's aggressive herbal and citrusy character as a palate cleanser, similar to sorbet. So he paired it simply with a citrusy salad of Arugula.
It would do barleywine injustice to pigeonhole its flavors with any one pairing. Clipper City brewed its barleywine, Below Decks, with an acknowledged nod to English iterations. So think: chocolate!
The food was exquisite, the pacing perfect, the room intimate: a wonderful evening. More photos here.